Watch Wolf Blitzer's interview with Air Force One pilot Col. Mark Tillman today and tomorrow in The Situation Room at 6 pm ET.
ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Maryland (CNN) - Driving to this sprawling base just outside Washington, D.C. this week brought back lots of memories. Covering a president often means traveling with a president aboard this extraordinary aircraft, and as CNN's Senior White House Correspondent during the Clinton administration, I used to come here all the time to board Air Force One.
This week, I had a rare chance to catch up with Col. Mark Tillman, who's been flying the giant Boeing 747 since 1992, the final year of George H.W. Bush's presidency. He continued to fly for President Clinton’s full eight years, and became the chief pilot when President George W. Bush took office in 2001. Col. Tillman, who is now getting ready to retire, agreed to sit down with me and reflect on those years.
(CNN) - A new survey of New York voters is the second poll in two days to find Andrew Cuomo pulling away from Caroline Kennedy.
Four in 10 registered New York voters in a Marist poll released Thursday say they would would like to see Cuomo, currently the state’s attorney general, tapped as Hillary Clinton’s Senate replacement. Twenty-five percent of those polled think New York Gov. David Paterson should pick Kennedy for the spot.
A month ago, both Kennedy and Cuomo drew the support of one in four New Yorkers.
Cuomo now holds a clear advantage over Kennedy among Democrats (39 to 31 percent), Republicans (40 to 16 percent), and voters not registered with a political party (42 to 24 percent), and across most regions of the state. Only in New York City is the daughter of former President John Kennedy come close to Cuomo’s showing: she is the favorite of 31 percent of the city’s voters, compared to the 36 percent who favor Cuomo.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - For the moment, at least, things are looking up for the GOP in Virginia.
Republican Bob McDonnell has more than $2 million in the bank to fund his 2009 bid for the Virginia’s governor’s mansion, putting him well ahead of all three of his potential Democratic rivals in the money race, according to fundraising figures released by each of the campaigns.
Thursday was the deadline for each campaign to file year-end finance reports with the Virginia State Board of Elections.
McDonnell raked in $1.6 million during the most recent six-month reporting period, which lasted from June to December, and most of his money came in after election day, when Barack Obama turned Virginia blue on the presidential level for the first time in 44 years.
While the Democrats are facing off in a potentially costly primary battle, McDonnell has already locked up the Republican nomination and is devoting much of his spare time to raising campaign cash. Earlier this month, McDonnell - Virginia's current Attorney General - held a pair of fundraisers with former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.
McDonnell now has more than twice as much money on hand as each of the Democrats in the governor’s race, including Terry McAuliffe, the well-connected former DNC chairman who officially entered the race in January and raised about $948,000 since he started collecting checks last fall. McAuliffe reported having about $718,000 on hand.
Despite that relatively modest number, McAuliffe has been in the race for only seven weeks and is expected to out raise and outspend all of the candidates as the campaign progresses.
State senator Creigh Deeds, a Democrat from Bath County, raised about $658,000 since June and ended the year with about $891,000 in the bank, about a quarter of a million more than he had six months ago.
Democrat Brian Moran, the former House delegate from Alexandria, raised roughly $755,000 since June and rustled up more than $2 million over the course of the year, but his campaign spent much of that war chest building their operation and finished 2008 with about $770,000 on hand.
Virginia's Democratic primary is scheduled for June 9.
The White House has released excerpts of President Bush's farewell address to the nation tonight, as prepared for delivery. The president will reflect on Barack Obama's inauguration, the response to 9/11 - and on "setbacks" he's faced over the past eight years. (Excerpts, as released by the White House, after the jump)
Watch the president's speech on CNN tonight at 8 pm.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate voted Thursday afternoon to release the remaining $350 billion dollars of the Troubled Asset Recovery Program (TARP) bailout fund.
The Senate's 52-42 rejection of a resolution of disapproval on the release of the funds means that President-elect Barack Obama can spend the money with no additional restrictions.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Attorney General-designate Eric Holder conceded during his confirmation hearing Thursday that the government's options for regulating the possession of firearms have been narrowed in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2008 ruling that the Second Amendment ensures an individual right to bear arms.
"Reasonable restrictions are still possible," Holder said, including measures such as a ban on the sale of what are called "cop-killer" bullets.
But, he granted, "we're living in a different world" since the high court's 5-4 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller.
Holder said that he previously viewed the Second Amendment as a "collective right" to bear arms, not an individual right.
The Heller ruling, Holder said, was a "very significant opinion."
(CNNMoney.com) - Never mind Joe the Plumber; meet John the Manufacturer. That's what President-elect Barack Obama will be doing Friday, when he stops in Ohio to pitch his $825 billion economic recovery and job creation package.
While in Bedford Heights, Ohio, Obama will be touring the Cardinal Fastener & Specialty Company, a local manufacturing company that supplies steel screws, washers and bolts to industries such as construction and mining. The company is a carefully chosen poster child for Obama's stimulus plans: While so many manufacturers struggle with slowing sales, Cardinal Fastener is growing and adding staff, thanks to its focus on the green energy industry.
"People call it the next automotive industry for the United States," said John Grabner, 56, president and owner of Cardinal.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Veteran Illinois politician Roland Burris was sworn in as the junior U.S. senator from Illinois on Thursday afternoon, following an extended political battle to claim the seat.
Watch: Burris becomes a senator
After being denied entry into the hallowed chamber last week, Burris was warmly welcomed Thursday by Senate colleagues, including Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"Whatever complications surrounded his appointment, we made it clear from the beginning, both publicly and privately, that our concern was never with Mr. Burris," Reid said. "I didn't have the pleasure of meeting Mr. Burris until last week. I found now-Senator Burris to be engaging, gracious, and he was very firm in his commitment to become a good and effective United States senator.
"Given the uncertainty around his appointment, all of his statements and actions, again both publicly and privately, reflected his strong character that will serve him well as be begins his service to the people of Illinois," Reid added.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Attorney General designate Eric Holder said during his confirmation hearing Thursday that President Clinton's 1999 decision to grant clemency to 16 convicted FALN Puerto Rican prisoners who had committed acts of violence "was reasonable."
Holder noted that there were "a lot of people in support of that clemency request," including Nobel Peace Prize laureates Jimmy Carter and Coretta Scott King.
The prisoners were "bad people," said Holder, but clemency was warranted in part because none of their acts resulted in physical harm to anyone.
CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) - Veteran Illinois politician Roland Burris headed to Washington for his official Senate swearing-in Thursday afternoon.
"It's called faith. And we knew that we were in the right. The law was on our side. And all we had to do was prevail," he said of his political struggle to claim his Senate seat. Embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed him to fill the junior senator position vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
"We are on our way to Washington to be sworn in. And I'm looking forward to it," Burris said as he left Chicago's O'Hare airport Thursday morning with his wife. "As a matter of fact, I will go to work this evening. There will be votes taken tonight and tomorrow. The family will be coming back tonight (to Chicago). But I will have to go to work."
Senate Democratic leaders said Monday that the former Illinois attorney general presented the appropriate credentials for his Senate appointment.
Some Senate Democrats had argued that Burris should not be seated because he was appointed by Blagojevich, who has been impeached on corruption charges by the Illinois House of Representatives and is accused of attempting to "sell" the seat Obama vacated.
Blagojevich now faces a trial in the Illinois Senate.